I’ve been hearing a lot about “self love” lately.
Everywhere I turn, I see articles like “10 Powerful Ways to Practice Self Love,” “Self Love Must Come First,” and “7 Ways to Put Self Love into Action.”
I even saw a journal, claiming on the cover “Self Love is My New #RelationshipStatus.”
Self love is nothing new — we’ve been loving ourselves to excess since the fall of mankind.
Before you and I buy into the popular philosophy of loving ourselves more, it would be wise to look at what Jesus taught on the subject. Jesus said if we wanted to be His followers, we needed to deny self, pick up our crosses daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
Yes, we are to take care of ourselves because our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are to not harm ourselves because we belong to Him. But we are not to prefer ourselves over others. I know, in my life, I don’t need reminders to love myself, I need the Holy Spirit’s gentle conviction to love others more than myself. Jesus taught we are to love Him first, others second, and ourselves last (Matthew 22:37-40). While self love is popular, sacrificial love is biblical. Christ-like love, which puts others first, is what will ultimately set us free and bring us joy.
In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That means identifying with His death and resurrection and considering our lives fully His.
I realize, after more than 30 years in ministry, that in this broken world many women have put their abusers first, and allowed themselves to be trampled upon. That is not God’s will. Many women have been beaten down as a child and told they would never amount to much. That breaks God’s heart. Many women have lost self respect because of a history of sexual sin, addiction, or the sins of others that have left deep emotional (and perhaps physical) scars on them. But, the answer is not loving ourselves. The answer is embracing the faithful God who proved that He loves us more than anyone else ever could, so that we can love Him more than we’ve loved anyone else. When we do that, we experience what it means to be truly wanted and valuable, because of what Christ did for us.
My friends, our self worth is not EVER in ourselves, alone. We are worthy and valuable because of what Jesus has done for us. First Corinthians 6:10-20 tells us He bought us with a price, and that makes us extremely valuable in His eyes. Therefore, He deserves the first of our love, not our leftover love. When you and I really understand the significance of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we will treat our bodies as His holy dwelling place and follow His command to love Him with all that we are, and love others as He loves them — sacrificially and preferentially.
I believe you and I, in our fleshly nature, don’t need encouragement from the world or even the church to love ourselves more than we already do. I believe Jesus knew our self love was at dangerous capacity. Therefore, He commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Jesus knew we already loved ourselves enough and needed to put self on the shelf and learn to love others at least as much as we loved ourselves.
Be careful about what you hear, read, apply, and endorse. Align it with what the Word of God teaches and “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Instead of self love, how about embracing God’s love? How about “Jesus-love is my new relationship status”? That’s one that will never disappoint or hollow out.
(If you are struggling with the concept of self love because of pain in your past, see my books When God Sees Your Tears and When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts. They will help you understand Who loves you and how you can learn to love and trust others again. )
Of course He endorsed self-love!
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31, KJV
“He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.” – Proverbs 19:8, KJV
It’s like being on an airplane – you put on your own oxygen mast before helping others. If we are empty we cannot help others. We cannot give love if we don’t have it.
True love of self is done in humility – believing what God says about us, loving ourselves as He loves us. We are the apple of His eye!!
Hi Tina, Thank you for your thoughts. I did mention in the blog Jesus’ words in Mark. Again, I believe He mentioned our love of self because we, by default, love ourselves. Elsewhere in Scripture we are told “no one ever hated his own body” (Ephesians 5:29). It’s in our fleshly nature to love ourselves first, but that’s why we need His regenerating Holy Spirit, to prefer others ABOVE ourselves, which doesn’t come naturally.There IS a difference between self care and self love, which is why I wanted to make sure my readers did not infer I was implying we don’t take CARE of ourselves. True, we must put on our own oxygen mask before helping a child put on theirs so we are still healthy enough to help others. But true pouring out cannot happen unless we are being poured into by God and His Word, which happens when He is on the throne of our lives, not ourselves. We cannot give sacrificial love to others, if we love ourselves more than others. If Jesus loved His own life more than He loved us, He never would have made it to the cross. We give love out of the love God has poured into us and the love we have poured into our relationship with God. Thank you, again, for your thoughts.
I was just having this conversation last week. My stance at the time was love others (and of course Jesus first and foremost) more than yourself. But the person i was talking with brought up that same verse of love your neighbour as yourself. That if we don’t love ourselves properly (or self care) then how can we love others in a Godly way. I still have mixed feelings on topic as I can see both sides. Self loathing also seems to be an issue in society and our churches, but I also think serving others is often overlooked as a means to treat that when it can be one of the most beneficial ways of making yourself feel more valuable. I’m not disagreeing with you at all. I just feel like I have a giant question mark over both sides (if that makes sense? Lol) I feel like I’m so confused and in a bit of a lost place right now.
Thank you for your honesty, Trisha. I think the key is understanding the difference between self care and self love. We can care for ourselves (and we are commanded to do so because our bodies are God’s temple) but that doesn’t mean we are to prefer ourselves over others. We can’t get around the fact that Jesus said we are to deny self (and its desires) and follow Him, and desire what He wants.
Many times I felt the same when I read those words of self love. This was a great article explaining well.
Thank you, Mary.
A beautifully outlined article which touches upon the understanding of Jesus’s love for all. The modern understanding of self-love plays well into what you have brought forth within the article. It is easy to critic and creates a unique space for what seems popular at the moment.
Biblical self-love, not sacrificial-love, states that self-love is totally dependant upon the first commandment, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. When one follows this commandment, God’s love for US becomes evident and overwhelmingly powerful within us. God’s love, once embraced, allows us to truly know love (God) bringing one to the realization that they can love themselves as God loves them. When God’s love for us is within us, his love then flows through us to others (Holy Spirit), we can then truly love others as we know love through ourselves/self-love.
So, when you state, Instead of self-love, how about embracing God’s love? Through separation of God’s Love and Self-love (Biblical), you infer modern self-love, not God’s love as they are truly one and the same. All love is God for God is love!
Thank you for starting a great exercise in understanding Jesus’s two commandments, which is based upon God as three in one, not just Jesus but the message of God/Love!
This was such a great read. I have seen an influx of articles, post, ads etc of this self love movement. And your blog hit the nail right on the head…..Jesus said we must FIRST deny self. Thank you for a confirming word. I’m excited to get acquainted with your mission and your ministry. I see several books (if not all 😊) that I’ll be purchasing. Many Blessings
Thanks, Renee. I appreciate your encouraging words and that you took the time to read the blog. Hope you’ll be back to my site often.
Beautiful and inspiring
I was often told you can’t love anyone if you don’t love yourself I have been living this life for awhile now loving others and believing Jesus will love Me and help Me as long as I help others and not be selfish because of the things I go through that if I do good by others that Jesus will take care of Me but to be of help and courage and to forgive and to love I know that I can forgive and love but it’s just that I don’t have control over another to do right by Me I can be a help to my enemy and put the past behind but at times I’m kinda afraid some people aren’t willing to change for the best and I don’t won’t to fall in their trap again I do know that everyone everything has to go back to Christ even the things and persons who doesn’t won’t to He has the Power he is given the Ruler and Judges place I’m seeking Jesus ways as Much as Possible Hes the Truth the Way the Life and Light of All things Let’s keep Us All in Prayer
I really enjoyed this blog. Thank you so much to all those who shared and especially the author. This is extremely timely in our end-times world where men will be haters and lovers of self more than lovers of God. I like the verse, I think Ephesians that says to think of others as ‘better than ourselves’ (Sorry I don’t have my Bible today) best wishes and much love to you all.
Cindi, I’m so glad you wrote on this timely topic!! I agree with you that the Bible is clear. Let us love Jesus, our neighbor, and (then) ourselves. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but sacrificial love is more biblical than self-love. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Ashley. Thank you for your comment. It’s great to hear from you, too. Would love to catch up on what’s going on in your life. 🙂